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Detecting Concussions with the King-Devick Test

With school back in session and fall sports underway for high school and college athletes, we begin to see an increase in sport related injuries here at Team Health Care Clinic. These can be sprains or strains, neck or back injuries, and also concussions. While many patients know that we treat the first few conditions on a regular basis, not everyone knows about how our providers help with head related injuries. One of the ways that we are detecting concussions at our clinic is through the use of the King-Devick Test.

According to the Center for Disease Control, a concussion is a type of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) cause by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth disrupting the normal function of the brain. Contrary to what many think, it does not take a direct blow to the head for someone to sustain a concussion. The brain sits in the cranium, or skull, with enough space for it to move around. Even a whiplash injury is enough for the brain to bounce around inside of the cranium and cause direct injury to brain tissue. In fact, up to 90% of concussions occur without someone even losing consciousness.

Many concussions are not witnessed or go unreported and therefore go undetected. Testing before a suspected injury occurs is crucial for better detection and treatment of these injuries. In our clinic, we utilize the King-Devick test as a part of our baseline concussion assessment and post-head injury evaluation to determine if someone has experienced a concussion. King DevickThe King-Devick test is endorsed and utilized by Mayo Clinic and measures the speed at which someone can perform fast or rapid eye movements, called saccades, while doing rapid number reading (RNR).

Why are rapid eye movements assessed? Because at least 55% of pathways in the brain are utilized in eye movements. When an injury to the brain has occurred, these pathways are compromised and areas of the brain used for vision and eye movements are impaired. With symptoms such as headache, double vision, and difficulty with concentration often present following a concussion, the King-Devick test becomes very difficult for the athlete to perform. Since a baseline measurement has already been obtained, it is easy to compare scores and better assess the function of the athlete’s brain to determine if they’ve had a concussion and help identify the most appropriate treatment.


We use the King-Devick assessment tool with athletes at any age. Parents of student athletes should consider baseline testing as important as any other safety equipment used during play. With the information that baseline testing (and re-testing) provides, our providers are able to detect concussions that may have otherwise gone unnoticed and offer the best treatment options to get your child back in play if an injury has occurred. If you’re interested in baseline concussion testing, schedule an appointment at our Champlin wellness clinic.

Erik Starr, DC

Erik Starr, DC

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